Hi there, it’s Techlab again! Great to see that you found this awesome Essent IT Tech platform and that you made your way to one of Techlab’s blog posts. In this blog we would like to dive deeper into a tool we use in our way of working: the one and only TechRadar! The Techradar is a tool that helps us keep track of the various technologies and use cases we explore and study, providing a visual representation of our progress. It serves as both a planning tool for our team and a means of communication with our organization. However, we realized that we were not achieving our desired results with the original Techradar, leading us to make some changes. In this blog post, we will provide more details about the new and improved Techradar.
The Techradar has its roots in Techlab's beginnings as a group of enthusiastic, innovative developers. It is divided into four phases: "Spotted", "Research", "Proof", and "Advice".
Let's take a closer look at the Techradar's phases. When Techlab becomes aware of a new and exciting technology, whether through a brainstorming session or through colleagues, we add it to the Techradar in the "Spotted" phase. If members of Techlab decide to investigate further, the technology moves to the "Research" phase, where we assess its potential value and design experiments to test it. Based on the results of this research and experimentation, we may proceed to the "Proof" phase, where we conduct a Proof-of-Concept or Proof-of-Technology. After completing this phase, the technology moves to the final "Advice" phase, where we document our findings and provide recommendations to relevant stakeholders. These phases support our way of working and allow us to efficiently track and communicate our progress, as we discussed in our previous blog post, "We are Techlab!".
The phases of the Techradar provide a visually appealing way to track the technologies we are researching. As a result, we have a clear and organized graph, as shown in the picture below. The list on the left displays all of the technologies currently on the radar, while the right side shows the technologies plotted on the radar according to their phase.
The initial Techradar was designed to support us in two ways:
1. By providing us with a clear overview of the progress of each technology in its respective phase. This allows us to easily discuss and track the progress of technologies in the research, proof, and advice phases, as well as identify opportunities for further investigation when there are few technologies in the research or proof phases.
2. By communicating our progress to stakeholders, such as members of the IT Leadership Team who receive monthly updates on our progress. This enables us to clearly showcase the projects we are working on and those that are currently under investigation, as well as receive feedback and recommendations from these stakeholders on which technologies from the "Spotted" phase to prioritize.
Techradar goes under the radar
The original Techradar was hosted online and could be accessed through our Techlab website, where we also shared documentation and advice for our projects. This website was heavily used in Techlab's early days.
However, things have changed since then. As the original members of Techlab moved on, we found that the current team was using the Techradar less and less. We would occasionally update it, but only out of a sense of obligation rather than a desire to actively support our work. We also encountered issues with the setup of the radar, such as loading failures, which took up a lot of our time to fix. As a result, we began using other tools, such as Trello for project planning and Powerpoint for monthly management updates, and the Techradar took a back seat, eventually leading us to stop updating it altogether.
We recently revisited the Techradar and recognized that while the concept was still valuable, the current setup was no longer serving our needs. However, we also recognized that the Techradar could play a role in improving communication and transparency within our organization. With this in mind, we decided it was not over yet, and we would revive the Techradar. Time for some improvements!
In order to maximize the potential of the Techradar, we sought input on possible improvements through a team brainstorm at the office. We asked ourselves questions such as: what information do we want to capture and how can we visually represent it in an appealing way? How do technologies enter and exit the radar? The brainstorm generated many exciting ideas, which our creative Techlab Lead Hannah then used as inspiration to create a design in Mural, serving as the foundation for setting everything up.
After the initial brainstorm, Hannah arranged a call with consultants from ML6, who also had a visually impressive Tech Radar. Through their team, we learned about the Zalando Tech Radar (https://opensource.zalando.com/tech-radar/) and discovered that its source code was freely available on Github (https://github.com/zalando/tech-radar). We were particularly drawn to certain aspects of the ML6 Tech Radar, such as the list of company experts associated with each technology and the list of company use cases for each technology.
The Zalando Tech Radar was also a source of inspiration for us, particularly due to its organization into quadrants by topic category (such as Datastores, Infrastructure, Data Management, and Languages). Additionally, the phases were defined differently than in our initial Tech Radar, with categories including Hold, Assess, Trial, and Adopt. This layout allows for easy identification of technologies that will not be adopted or those that we have determined to hold onto.
Through both internal brainstorming and examination of how other companies utilize similar Techradars, we were able to gather a wealth of improvement ideas. The next step was to determine which of these improvements we would implement. Which brings us to our last step: improving our very own Techradar.
Proudly presenting: our new and improved Techradar!
After much discussion, careful design, and impressive coding, we are thrilled to unveil our newly improved Techradar! This radar has been tailored to align with our revised mission and strategy to: “boost the innovation culture within Essent IT by
providing opportunities to colleagues to spend time on innovation.”
This radar is a visualization of the different technologies and use cases we discuss and research. We plan to view innovation initiatives of the entire Essent IT department, and also, its phases are no longer based on Techlab projects.
Our new Techradar boasts a range of enhancements, including:
- Direct links to the technologies' websites for quick and easy access
- Descriptions for each technology available upon click, providing more information and context
- Four quadrants organized by topic categories, allowing colleagues to easily find projects of interest from their own perspective
- Four phases representing the current status of technologies within the company, rather than Techlab project phases
- A refreshed color scheme for a modern, visually appealing look.
The next step is to integrate the Techradar into our daily routines and habits, with the goal of making it a useful and integral part of our workflows. In the coming period, we will work on expanding the radar's scope and cultivating a culture of regular engagement with it. Our objectives include:
- Broaden the scope of the Techradar to include use cases and technologies from all of Essent IT, not just Techlab.
- Include contact information for relevant individuals in the descriptions of the tools and technologies, fostering connections and collaboration.
- Clearly communicate and document decisions on what technologies to assess and which to set aside, as well as reasoning for not pursuing certain projects.
Finally, we would just like to add that we are very proud and happy with our new and improved radar. With our newly improved Techradar, we at Techlab are excited to actively use and promote this valuable tool. It will serve as a central hub for making informed decisions on the technologies and projects we choose to pursue and share with the rest of Essent IT. If you're a part of the Essent IT team and want to contribute technologies or collaborate on projects listed on the radar, please don't hesitate to reach out. We are eager to make the most out of our new Techradar and foster a culture of innovation and collaboration within Essent IT.